05 January 2016

Vegetable Butcher

I sometimes get questions from people about what to do with X vegetable, or who just need a bit of inspiration for what to do with a vegetable.

Vegetable Butcher is a book by Cara Mangini, a chef who's worked at Eataly in NYC at the vegetable butcher they have there. What is a vegetable butcher? It sounded ridiculous to me until I was talking with my friend Tasha about vegetables that are a pain to deal with: artichokes, fiddlehead ferns, etc. We both agreed that if we could go to the store, pick out the plumpest, heaviest, most stunning examples of artichokes, then drop it off at a vegetable butcher counter to have someone else trim the poky leaves, and scoop out the choke, and do all the rest of the "labours of Hercules" (according to Jennifer Patterson of Two Fat Ladies fame) involved in cleaning and preparing the artichoke to cook, we'd pay the premium price! Why? Because it'd still be cheaper than buying it at a restaurant!

The reason you buy Vegetable Butcher is for one reason alone: inspiration! And what an inspiring book it is! Stunning photos for each vegetable. Plenty of instructional pictures to tell you how to prepare the vegetable.

Beautiful pictures abound on every page. Practical, straightforward advice for preparing and cooking the vegetable. Just flipping through, looking at the pictures, and reading the compatible flavours sections of each vegetable will get you hungry, and ready to cook on your own.

If you're more of a novice cook, and need more guidance, there are slightly more detailed blurbs about what to do with the vegetable in question. If you need still more inspiration, there are imaginative recipes (many with full colour beautiful images to accompany them) that tell you even more in detail what to do.

This is not vegan, by any stretch of the imagination, but all the recipes can easily be adapted to become vegan. Every recipe I've read has been vegetarian. That's what I love about this book. Yes, there is a bit of cheese, or butter here and there, but that's not the focus, and you could well leave it out or substitute it! It's not like some books where the vegetables take a back seat to meat. Instead, there is no meat. It's all vegetables, with plenty of different kinds of spices and the like.

I love a book that I can flip through on a rainy day, hot cup of tea by my side, and just get inspired from. The best part is that it publishes in the Spring, which means that you'll have plenty of inspiration about what to do with the haul you get from your farmer's market, food co-op, CSA, or even manager's specials at the grocery store (I'm as broke as you are--I won't judge!) throughout the season of plenty. It'll take you right into the summer with all the bountiful produce coming into season then too.

I'm gushing so much about this because I was truly inspired to get out and cook different things. It broke me out of my mental rut. I hope when you get your hands on the Vegetable Butcher, it will do the same for you!